Opposition to Capital Punishment Should Not be a Matter of Opportunism

Published: 02nd August 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2015 10:59 PM   |  A+A-


Conviction has become a matter of convenience for India’s rising numbers of Argumentative Ill-liberals. They invoke ideologically tenuous tenets whenever it is expedient. For the past few weeks in the bombastic build-up to Yakub Memon’s execution, myriad ersatz ideologues awoke from their self-serving stupor to proclaim their opposition to the death penalty. Indeed, some of them do have a credible record as campaigners against capital punishment. But there are many opportunists who sensed a bright opportunity to lure the limelight in the competitive world of opinion operators by joining the chorus. Last week’s decibel-driven debate on whether the gallows are a necessary deliverer for justice or not was seen by many as an attempt to prevent the hanging of Memon who was, by his own admission, associated with the macabre murders of over 250 innocents, including numerous Muslims. Even an erudite and articulate intellectual-turned politician like Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wasn’t gauging the sensitivity of the somber occasion when he tweeted, “Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too.” Coming as it did from a scholar like Tharoor, his social media post invited the ire of what the Ill-liberals call ‘Bhakts’. Terming the implementation of a verdict delivered and endorsed by the Supreme Court as state-sponsored killing, Tharoor denigrated the credibility of the Indian judicial system, which spent a record number of days, months and years deliberating the issue of hanging a man who had savaged the soul of India. Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Dipak Misra did stellar service to the judiciary by sitting late till dawn to hear the same arguments on Memon’s clemency petition all over again only to let the world know that the Indian judicial process may be slow sometimes, but is impeccably unimpeachable in its verdicts.

Tharoor’s wasn’t the lone litany in narrative of lament. Numerous heroes and zeroes from Bollywood and politics voiced the same concerns. But a genuine question that deserves merit is about the timing of their rant against the death penalty. Why do the Ill-Liberals froth at the mouth when an Afzal Guru or a Yakub Memon is hanged for their unpardonable crimes against the country and its unity? Why did they not raise their voices when hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Pandits were either killed or exiled from their homeland by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists? Why were they silent when the diabolically depraved 39-year-old Dhananjoy Chatterjee was sent to the gallows for raping and killing a minor girl? Chatterjee was hanged at sunrise at the Alipore Central Jail in Kolkata where he had spent the last 13 years in solitary confinement. The 84-year-old hangman Nata Mullick, assisted by his 21-year-old grandson, Prabhat, carried out the execution. It is ironical that the CPI(M), which took the lead in screaming bloody murder against Memon’s hanging was also the most vociferous supporter of Chatterjee being sent to the scaffold. Then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Left partner RSP had gone to the extent of asking the President to reject Chatterjee’s mercy petition. To prevent Memon’s hanging, however, they went knocking on all doors. Naturally, their sworn foe TMC opposed this ardor. But both came on the same page to protest sending Memon to the gibbet. When Afzal Guru was to be hanged for his role in the 2001 Parliament attacks, the professional pardonists argued fiercely that they were not supporting him, but were instead antagonistic towards the very principle of capital punishment. If this is the case, why aren’t the Ill-Liberals moving the legislatures to delete it from the statuette book? How many states ruled by the Left or supported by Ill-Liberals have adopted resolutions on this matter? How many of them have disrupted Parliament for saving the several convicts who are likely to meet their maker in the near future? There has never been either consistency or willingness on their part to take their cause to its logical end. Is it because their desires convert into action only when the name and religion of a convict facing the noose suits their agenda? Records of parliamentary proceedings proves that death penalty hasn’t been a favourite subject of rhetoric for those who are now straining their vocal chords on TV and writing caustic columns. It was shocking to see opinion-makers, including some in the media, discussing the merit of Memon’s punishment rather than the damage he caused to communal harmony of his own community. A few over-enthusiastic columnists crossed the line by even questioning the wisdom of a national icon like Pranab Mukherjee, forgetting the fact that the President, whether a vegetarian or not, is bound by the government’s final decision.

Memon was also used by Ill-Liberals as a viral weapon to polarise Indian society. As the Bihar elections draw near, most political parties and their maniacal megaphones are looking for an opportunity to garner sectarian support. For them, a serious observation and fear expressed by a governor is seized upon as a chance to politicise a ominous issue. Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy’s tweet caused a huge uproar among Ill-liberal contrarians. He had typed, “Intelligence shd keep a tab on all (expt relatives & close friends) who assembled bfr Yakub Memon’s corpse. Many are potential terrorists.” A few minutes later, he tweeted again, “Governors ought to be concerned abt security of state. Intelligence keeping tab on Yakub’s mourners is preventing terror. Better than cure.” Predictably he was targeted left, right and centre by the Left and their camp followers. Perhaps they conveniently forgot that every Governor sends a fortnightly report to the President about myriad issues, including law and order. Roy, however, had the last laugh when a report on Memon’s burial published in the Indian Express, which was seen as the apocalyptic future that lies in store for India. In a jointly written story by three astute, hard-working reporters namely Kavitha Iyer, Tabassum Barnagarwala and Aamir Khan, one of the mourners Tariq Sheikh told them, “Blast victims are calling it justice. But look at the Bada Kabristan, and tell me if this looks like closure, or the start of something.” Some may claim Sheikh has proved the governor right while others may call it the disquiet of a wounded community. The assassins of humanity cannot be allowed to live to be resurrected as archangels of death. Getting them to suffer the same fate they brought to others is the real test of conviction in the code of justice.


Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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